Thanksgiving in a Country That Celebrates It WeeklyRabat, Fall 2011
Turkey Day hit the United States today, but it passed throughout the rest of the world without so much as a whisper. Admission: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, even trumping Mr. Kringle’s December juggernaut. It is America at its simplest: boatloads of unhealthy food, genuine love among family and friends, and countless hours of sloth-like digestion while enjoying American football. All good things. Another aspect I love about it is that it is truly secular; you can thank whichever deity you worship for the bounty before you. Americans are too busy too often, and Thanksgiving is a great reminder to slow down and smell the tryptophan.
But Morocco doesn’t have an established, national holiday that is comparable to Thanksgiving. Ramadan is a joyous time at night when people are allowed to eat, smoke, and drink after a full day of rest, and Eid al-Kabeer (or Eid al-Adha) is a time when families re-convene to celebrate and slaughter a sheep in the name of God, but both are imbued with such Islamic themes that is tough to identify with them. The most comparable day to Thanksgiving actually occurs every Friday, the Islamic holy day. After the gathering at the mosque and a sermon from the imam, people join their families for a giant helping of couscous, the unofficial regional dish of North Africa. Some businesses shut down on Friday as families flock to be together and enjoy each other’s company.
But as I’ve noticed in Morocco, most families live around the city in which they’ve grown up. Their siblings, parents, and cousins all live across town or in the surrounding area. It’s pretty easy to get everyone together when all you need to do is jump in a taxi for less than $5. American families are much more spread out and sometimes they have to spend hundreds of dollars to get home. Couscous Fridays occur so often because they can.
I tried explaining the concept of American Thanksgiving to my host mom, what with the family and the food and the friends and the happy times and the thankfulness for everything that has in my life that has made me into the person I am today, and she responded, “Oh, that’s like Couscous Friday to us.”
Exactly. Thanksgiving can’t be summed up in an offhanded and casual remark. Because Americans are so spread out and busy, the holiday is that one time we can get together and appreciate everything in life that we pass by daily. Moroccans have a slower pace of life, so they can afford to take a little time and money out of every week to stop and be thankful.
Blah, blah, blah, cultural sensitivity, new experiences, better person…I get it. I’m thankful for where I am, the people who have helped me along the path, and I feel as blessed as ever for my life situation right now.
…But that still doesn’t put the Packers-Lions game on TV.
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